Live at Yale
July 27, 2003

Trompes de Chasse

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From left to right:
RJ Kelley, Russell Rizner, Bruce Gardner (tenor), Dick Martz, Doug Lundeen, Bradley Strauchen, Lowell Greer, Marian Hesse, Rick Seraphinoff, Celeste Holler, Chris Smith, Virginia Thompson, Cynthia Carr, Chris Pankratz (organist), Eva M. Heater.


Around 1682 the Trompe de Chasse, or hunting horn, came into vogue. The Kings and nobles that played this horn composed thousands of fanfares and several Hubertus-Masses, but no known Requiem. In 2003 Lowell Greer composed the Requiem du Chasseur in memory of Helen Kotas Hirsch, former first horn of the Chicago Symphony. Intorno al 1682 diventò di moda la Trompe de Chasse, o corno da caccia. Re e nobili che suonavano questo strumento composero migliaia di fanfare e diverse Messe di Saint Hubert, ma nessun Requiem di cui si sappia. Nel 2003 Lowell Greer ha composto il Requiem du Chasseur in memoria di Helen Kotas Hirsch, che fu primo corno alla Chicago Symphony.

Rex Tremendae [5296 K]

Sanctus [3733 K]

Tenor: Bruce Gardner
Organ: Christopher Pankratz
Trompe: Cindy Carr, Lowell Greer, Eva Heater, Marian Hesse, Celeste Hollar, R.J. Kelley, Douglas Lundeen, Richard Martz, Russell Rizner, Richard Seraphinoff, Christopher Smith, Bradley Strauchen, Virginia Thompson.


Requiem du Chasseur

The literature for the French Trompe de Chasse, the valveless predecessor of today's horn, stands at odds with the bulk of the horn literature, having its own musical forms, orchestrations, specific ornamentations, and even unique rules of harmonization. These unique concessions were predicated on the limitations of the instrument itself. The note series the horn in D is capable of sounding is called the "overtone series" and comprises about 16 pitches, all relating to the D major chord, in one way or another. This orientation towards the major triad predetermines that hunting music will have a conservative style, compositionally speaking, that was developed in the 18th and 19th centuries. These harmonization rules of hunting music have been used by composers since the baroque era to conjure up images of nobility, aristocracy, and regal bearing (Called "horn fifths", two common examples would be the Emperor Concerto or 9th Symphony "Ode to Joy" both by Beethoven). Significant in the body of hunting horn music are the St Hubertus Masses, and to a lesser degree the St Eustache Masses. Being a traditionally Catholic nation, France has used its "national instrument" for unique colorations in liturgical music, with the added bonus that the Trompes are able to be carried out of the church and into the forest, allowing the priests to bless, in situ, the forests, hunters, dogs, and horses on the onset of hunting season. There are few, if any Requiem Masses contained in the body of the literature, however. Hunters, it seems, have always planned to live indefinitely! The lack of a concert, or liturgical Requiem, therefore, is a large omission, probably noted only at a point in time when it was too late for a composer to fill this commission in a timely manner. The Requiem du Chasseur was written in memory of Helen Kotas Hirsch, former first horn of the Chicago Symphony, and to honor the lives of all past players of the horn.

The function of the traditional Requiem Mass could be described as the religious celebration of the passage of an individual from life into paradise, but as such, the Mass addresses the survivor more than the departed; it is the listener's moment for reflection on the nature of the duality between divine judgement and divine mercy, the hope of redemption from human failure, and a glimpse of eternal bliss in an unfallen state. The music composed for this rite of comfort has been developed into its own concert form, and is thus able to be enjoyed by individuals with a differing, non-Catholic faith, or with little or no affinity with the spiritual, whatsoever.

There are some features of the Requiem du Chasseur worth noting. From the onset, first heard in the pedals of the organ, is a heart-beat-like figure, a devise which recurs throughout the Requiem in various forms, and unifies the separate movements. The second figure worth noting is a group of 5 notes, rising above, falling below and returning to the main note, described musically as a "surrounding group". This figure is finally revealed, in the Evangelium moment, as being a figure taken for the hunting call "le Bonsoir". The horns function in lieu of the choir in a normal Requiem, but are able both to serve as a foil to the tenor chant, and to introduce their own new material "a la chasse".

The Introit remains somberly in the realm of the organ for much of its duration, supporting the chants of the tenor, but interrupted by the horns as the tenor sings Lux perpetua, and concluding the movement on an optimistic D major chord.

The Kyrie utilizes the seventh partial of the overtone series, generally considered too flat. Here it gives a strongly reinforced feeling of gloom in the key of A minor. Through this and the use of "stopped tones" provided by the nuting of the horn with the right hand in the bell, the horn choir seems to bemoan the spiritual doom of man. The movement is concluded with a short Toccata; a flourish of organ sound which delves into the stern sounding Phrygian mode, and introduces the Dies Irae melody of the nest movement.

The Dies Irae movement begins with a Fugato Troncato based on the famous Latin plainsong. The fugue form used here, truncated, or shortened (like the life of the deceased), varies from the norm in the contrapunctal intervals used in the introduction of the voices, once again predetermined by the limitations of the overtone series. Some more eerie sounds are heard upon the entry of the tenor singing the Dies Irae text, but upon reaching the Quantus Tremor section, the horn usher in the Celestial Judge with their own fanfare; the tenor finally becoming a "honorary horn player" during the Cuncta Stricte, where he trumpets his own fanfare with the horns.

In the Tuba Mirum, both the tenor and the 4th horn obligato develop the idea of the apochalyptical trumpet with fabricated modalities, ficticious notes, and hunting horn ornamentations, while the organ enjoys the freedom of random accomapniamental figures. The movement concludes with a fundamental D, probably the lowest sound you will ever actually want to hear produced on a horn!

In the Rex Tremendae, the horns sound their rousing chorus 3 times, in between which, the tenor sings the texts to the Rex Tremendae and Recordare.

In the Hostias, the tenor chants directly from traditional plainsong, and horns sound their hymn before and after.

The Sanctus once again "bookends" the horn chorus around the tenor chant solo, this time accompanied by the organ.

The horns play, in canon form, the palinsong melody, Agnus Dei, adapted directly from the Latin Requiem service.

The Evangelium text is taken from the words of Jesus of Nazareth, as quoted in Luke 20: 36-38. While the divinity of Jesus is the point of debate between at least 3 major world religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), it has been generally held that he was the speaker of some of the greatest words of peace and comfort ever uttered. Mid-movement the horns sound "le Bonsoir", a fanfare of departure, followed by a Hymn, Quia Vero, played by a solo horn and subsequently sung by the tenor. The movement concludes with a short "Carillon", a traditional hunting horn effect, in which the horns imitate the tintinabulation of bells.

In Paradisum concludes the work. It seems the domain of the tenor, musically, until the horns reveal themselves as the chorus angelorum. The heartbeat figure and the surrounding group make up the bricks-and-mortar of this abbreviated movement, which seems to end, only to have the Canticle of Zachary sounded in the subdominant, from the distance by a horn, departed from his/her collegues.